Waking the Dead: Series 2, Episodes 3 and 4: Deathwatch
Written by Stephen Davis; Directed by Maurice Phillips
Also known as “The One With David Hemmings In It”. The man himself doesn’t look at all well (his appearance was filmed just over a year before he suffered a fatal heart attack), but it’s a pleasure to see such a legend in the series, and he gives a good performance. It’s one that initially seems to be that of a grumpy ex-cop, disparaging of the newfangled investigative methods and reminiscing about a time when there was no paperwork and the police went by their instincts, but one that, in the second hour, reveals considerable complexities and twists things in a different direction. It’s not exactly surprising that Hemmings’ character has something to hide - he’s the major guest star, after all - but everyone in this episode is keeping a secret of some sort, so that’s not giving much away.
Anyway, the plot focuses on the death, under suspicious circumstances, of Harold Newman (Howard Goorney), an elderly man living in a nursing home. It becomes clear that he died with a guilty conscience, leaving a list of twelve people whose deaths he claims to have caused. The mysterious twelve turn out to have comprised the jury who condemned East End gangster Frank Sutton (Toby Mace) to death in 1963. Working with the assumption that Newman was a contract killer, Boyd and the CCS set out to find out for whom he was working, and who would now want him dead.
So follows a rather convoluted tale that, to be perfectly honest, doesn’t really play fair with the audience, by giving us a killer who, prior to being identified, only appears in a single throwaway scene and has a single line of dialogue. Of course, he’s ultimately only a means to an end, as the real thrust of the plot takes place nearly 40 years in the past, but it’s somewhat frustrating nonetheless. What makes up for this is, as is often the case in the early episodes, the interaction between the team. The explosive, absurd side of Boyd is now firmly established, but there is still degree of warmth between him and his colleagues that is almost completely absent in the most recent episodes. There is a dizzying array of genuinely amusing dialogue in this episode, much of it involving Grace’s birthday celebrations. (My favourite is Boyds “All right, all right, the shopping channel’s closed down. Now it’s time for the news.”)
Holby connections: David Ashton, who plays Father Cameron in this episode, wrote several episodes of Casualty during Series 2 and 3, while Ronald Pickup, who plays Charles Sutton, had a recurring role in Holby City about a year back as Lord Byrne.